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The 'wine companion" to Cleveland's holiday beers returns for 2023!

October 24, 2023

The 'wine companion" to Cleveland's holiday beers returns for 2023!

 It's Cleveland Rocks Christmas Red time!!! We always release our annual version of this holiday favorite on the day after the official release of the world-famous Christmas Ale at Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Company. It is my dream that someday the crowds that flock to Ohio City to celebrate this annual tradition of the Christmas Ale first pour will make their way to Cleveland Heights the next day to get our Cleveland Rocks Christmas Red! This is a limited release wine that is usually here and gone during the holidays - don't delay and come grab and glass (and a bottle or two) today!

We started making this special holiday wine back in 2016 in our first year in business. I had a vision for this wine in my original plan for the winery and worked with Head Winemaker Dave Mazzone to create the perfect blend of spices for this wine including cinnamon, cloves, and sweet orange peel. This wine is a rich and robust Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of blackberry added to the blend to lighten the body, to add some fruity notes, and to take the bitter edge off of the cinnamon. As with every wine that Dave Mazzone makes, the result is a beautifully balanced treat for the senses! Creating superb, nuanced balance in his wines is truly Dave's winemaking superpower.

The genesis of the front label of this wine also has a fun story associated with it. I love the Guardians - they are among my all-time favorite Cleveland landmarks. When I was designing the original wine label concepts, I knew I wanted to include one of the Guardians with some of the city skyline on a special label. In the winter of 2016 leading up to the winery opening, Winemaker Dave and his professional photographer brother-in-law spent a few days roaming Cleveland taking photos from a list of label concept views that I was working on. When it came time to photograph one of the Guardians, they pulled the car over and began to walk on the bridge, carrying their camera equipment. They must have looked a little suspicious, because it wasn't long before a police cruiser pulled up to check on what they were up to! They were explaining that they were taking pictures for a wine label when suddenly the light at the bottom of the Guardian statue they were planning to photograph went dark. This essentially ruined the shot. The Cleveland cop then remarked that the spotlight on his patrol car might be of help! He trained the spotlight beam on the face of the Guardian statue, creating the beautiful and ethereal halo of light you see on the label. There is no other photo of our beloved Guardians like this - and it is courtesy of our Hometown Heroes, the Cleveland Police Department!

For our October 2023 Community Wine Club event, we featured our Cleveland Rocks Christmas Red and our C-Town Cabernet Sauvignon. I always offer this holiday wine to our Wine Club members first, and I also love to offer it side-by-side with our Cabernet Sauvignon to compare and contrast how differently these two wines interact with the palate even though they are both Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are a reader of this blog, you know of my wine and food pairing philosophies of "matchy-matchy" and "ying and yang." I used both approaches to find perfect pairings for this month's featured wines.

For the Cleveland Rocks Christmas Red, I wanted to highlight the holiday spice in the wine, so I chose a food pairing with matching flavors. I paired it with a Pumpkin Spice Cookie with White Chocolate Chips... the "matchy-matchy" pumpkin spice in the cookie and the holiday spice in the wine come together to amplify and enhance each other. As the spice flavors come forward, the blackberry notes fade into the background, until you get a bite of the white chocolate chip, which is a nice "ying and yang" creamy and sweet component to complement the tart blackberry notes, creating something new on the palate. I love creating food and wine pairings that hit both philosophy categories! Here's the recipe for that yummy cookie:

White Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cookie

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and ½ tsp baking soda. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream 1 cup softened butter and 1 ½ cups packed brown sugar until smooth. Beat in 1 cup solid pack pumpkin puree. Then beat in 2 eggs and 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Lastly, beat in the flour mixture and then stir in 2 cups white chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped pecans. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-22 minutes until just set. The cookie will be moist and chewy!

For the C-Town Cabernet Sauvignon pairing, I went with a simple but elegant chocolate mousse. I always search for simple recipes that are easy for our Wine Club members to recreate and share with their family and friends. I love to serve a rich, chocolate dessert with a bold, dry wine - the ying and yang elements of the two creating balance with each other. The tannins in the wine cut through the richness of the dessert, while the sweetness of the mousse tames and softens the bold notes of the wine. To illustrate how this would work if I used a matchy-matchy approach, pairing a sweet wine with a sweet dessert would make them both taste even sweeter when they come together on your palate. This chocolate mousse recipe is so easy to make - only 3 ingredients! I piped the mousse with a pastry bag into cups for service to make the dessert look even more elegant. Here's the recipe: 

No-Bake Chocolate Mousse                             

Put 4oz of roughly chopped baking chocolate – sweet, semi-sweet or dark chocolate to your liking – in a saucepan and melt over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cool until lukewarm. In a mixer, beat 1 cup heavy cream at medium speed until foamy. Gradually add in ¼ cup powdered sugar and mix until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate. Spoon or pipe into serving glasses and chill for several hours before serving. 

What's the difference between pudding and mousse? Though both are scrumptious, there are a couple of things that set the two apart. First, pudding is thickened with cornstarch and sometimes eggs, while mousse uses whipped heavy cream as a thickener. Also, while both mousse and pudding are smooth and creamy, pudding has a denser texture, where mousse has little pockets of air that makes it have a light and airy texture that almost melts on your tongue.

I hope you enjoyed hearing the story of our Cleveland Rocks Christmas Red - it is very special to me, and I love sharing it with all of you! Here's to the holiday season!



The Urban Winery Lady